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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

I think I’m going to spend some time this month deciding if things serve me.

Like the peach jam.

I bought peach jam last September to use in a cocktail that sounded interesting. It wasn’t, and I don’t much like any jam let alone peach, so it sat there.

What did it cost, three bucks? But it has been in the fridge taking up space for nearly a year. To what end? Because it was there. Because I bought it. Because I didn’t want to waste it.

Did it serve me? Of course not. I ate it, and about 10,000 calories with it, when I used it for the peach cake last week. Now I don’t have a jar of jam.

It could have gone in the garbage. Instead it cost me more, in ingredients and in calories and in hours on the treadmill.

I got smart today and threw out the cherry jelly. I bought it for Ralph on a whim because he likes cherry and I thought it might be interesting. It wasn’t. That was last August.

Neither of us liked it, and what am I going to have to bake to “use it up?”

Children aren’t starving in Africa because I threw out a jar of jelly.

There is another jar of apricot jam in there but I used that in a banana bread once and it worked so I am keeping it for the next banana bread.

But I feel like I have this responsibility to use everything, whether it’s a jar of jelly or a piece of blank paper.

Do you know what else I threw out today? A piece of a notebook.

We have about a hundred Field Notes notebooks. I’m not even exaggerating. Ralph was part of the monthly club at some point and they’d send you a collection of these notebooks every month. They’re tiny, which is cool because I can carry them in my purse or backpack or throw them into the glove compartment in the car and when you need to make a note they come in handy.

I mean, not like I have about ten apps for that, but… go with it.

Except if you count all the places I’ve stashed a notebook combined with all the places Ralph has stashed a notebook, that leaves… 92 notebooks.

So they are in a box in the closet. I’m not going to throw them out, because they are not unlike my collections of everything. I’m not going to throw them out any more than I’m going to throw out (or give away) my 50 book marks.

However, I use these notebooks to a thread. And when a bunch of pages are used up in one, I rip them out so it’s easier to find the next blank page, except that makes the other pages loose and eventually you just have this cardboard cover with a staple in the middle and a handful of loose pages that keep falling out.

That is the state of the one that I had on my desk.

Today I finally had it with picking up pages from the floor after they fell out and I just threw the remaining half a dozen in the garbage.

It felt… rebellious? Not quite the word. Sacrilegious? Maybe not up to that level. Wrong. Subversive.

I think that’s it. It felt subversive.

And wasteful. Imagine all the things I could have written on those pages!

But. 92 more notebooks.

No trees are dying in the rainforest because I threw out six pages.

Or maybe they are. But at what point is it my sole responsibility to save the entire planet by eating all the jam and using all the pages?

At what point do I become responsible to myself?

This is a weird topic. It’s not what I planned to write but it’s on my mind as these things usually are at the beginning of a new month when I think about do-overs and new things.

It’s hard to explain. But it comes down to deciding what is serving me, and what is not.

In my project-list-making mania I set up a Quarterly Review project that is a mashup of what I learned in that recent productivity course and what I learned from the Bullet Journal course Ralph recommended. And now that it’s a new quarter, I finally have a chance to implement it.

So I took my project-list template and turned it into a Q2 review. It’s task-oriented, not object-oriented, but it’s the same premise.

Is this thing – task, to-do, jar of jam – still important?

Does this thing matter?

It’s been sitting there on my list or in my refrigerator for six months, so why is it there?

There’s a difference between something that’s important and something that matters.

Peach jam? Not important. Doesn’t matter, either.

Which leads to the question…

Is there a consequence if I get rid of this thing?

Like this:

Paying your taxes is important. If you don’t, bad things happen. It matters as long as you want to stay out of jail and not have your house and car repossessed.

It’s not important that I finish my puzzle. But it does matter, because I want to do it, because I enjoy doing it, and because it makes Ralph happy to know that I’m happy doing it.

The consequence to NOT getting rid of the peach jam is that I ate about 10,000 calories of something that was meh at best, because I turned a thing that didn’t matter into another thing that didn’t matter and took responsibility for both of them.

So my job this month is to decide whether this thing, this thing right here, should be taking up space in my brain or my refrigerator. Literally and figuratively.

The flip side to that is deciding that if something IS important and DOES matter…

Why is it still sitting there?

Why did I spend an hour making some peach cake so I could use up half a jar of jam when I could have been using that hour to do my puzzle? Or write one of the notecards that I dust off every weekend because they are still sitting on my desk unused?

This sounds like a matter of priorities, right? But it’s not that simple. Or maybe it is and it’s just my brain.

It’s somehow easier to do all the things that don’t matter. I mean, I’m not doing it on purpose. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, what’s the least effective and most meaningless thing I can do today?

A psychology major has not helped me figure this out but… I think in part it’s some long-ingrained notion of “clearing the decks.” I have to do all the little minutia before I can get to the Important Thing.

Also in part, maybe it’s some sense that I don’t deserve to be doing the Fun Thing until I’ve done all the Required Things.

And quite possibly some sense of resistance to doing what actually does serve me, because of all the things I think I should do, even if they don’t.

This is what happens when I spend a whole Saturday doing nothing. I wake up on Sunday and think of all the things I should have done.

And then I think about why I should have, and whether I should have, and then I go rogue and throw out six unused pieces of paper.

It’s all related, I swear.

I just can’t find the thread that ties it all up nicely into a point.

That’s why I’m sitting here staring at my Quarterly Review project and going down to the atomic level of what serves me and what doesn’t.

This Quarterly Review project culminates in reassessing your goals and then making some decisions about how to progress.

Goals. Remember those? From about two months ago when I said I had none?

Well, I have some, but that would be way too much to get into right now. I did, in fact, put the sheets in the washing machine so I’m going to tackle the housekeeping stuff I gave myself permission to defer yesterday.

The good news is that folding laundry and scrubbing the shower gives me time to ponder the existential questions, like what I should really do about that apricot jam.

This isn’t the blog I planned to write but it’s what I’m thinking about and it’s really more pressing on my brain right now.

It’s the jam and my fat and the puzzle and the stupid barrel project that I had to admit to not doing at all.

Anyway I am going to get my sheets now because otherwise I will keep sitting here talking about my sheets and that defies everything I just said about what serves me.

Yes, doing the sheets serves me. It makes me feel good that I live in a clean house, that my bed is comfortable and fresh. It makes me feel good that I’m a responsible human.

I had a nice day of sitting here doing nothing yesterday, but that has to be tempered with action. I don’t love cleaning the house, but I do like the result. I like waking up to clean counters and a floor I can walk across without stepping on a squished peach skin.

And I finished the peach cake, so now I can stop feeling responsible for that, and maybe I will eat salad this week instead.

Photo: a refrigerator shelf full of things that serve me. And jam.